The most infamous “bystander-fail’ of the 20th century is revisited by a haunted sibling in
A film by James Solomon
Opens in Toronto
June 17, 2016
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Opens in Calgary
“Brilliant” – The New Yorker
“Suspenseful and surprising” – Los Angeles Times
“Deeply moving” – The Hollywood Reporter
Director James Solomon and Bill Genovese are available for a limited number of interviews.
Millions think they know the story of Kitty Genovese – a woman who was raped and murdered on March 27, 1964 in the New York borough of Queens, with a purported “38 eyewitnesses” doing nothing to help.
The incident touched a nerve as a metaphor for a U.S. society that had apparently become numbed and apathetic to violent crime – inspiring books, anniversary media coverage and college courses.
In hindsight, the event as reported then in the “paper of record,” the New York Times, has been revealed to be dubious in nearly every detail.
James Solomon’s The Witness revisits the murky record of the Kitty Genovese murder through the eyes of Kitty’s brother Bill, a Vietnam veteran and war amputee. In a way, Bill’s whole life has been informed by his sister’s murder – up to and including his decision to volunteer for the Marines, a rejection of the apathy and indifference that supposedly surrounded her death.
Solomon’s camera thus records two stories. One is a tale of facts that were swept away in the face of a narrative, and the power of the New York Times to dictate what the rest of the media accepted as true. Media lions like Mike Wallace and the New York Times’ A.M. Rosenthal recount their part in the media circus.
The second is Bill Genovese’s own story, an obsession with the death of his long-lost closest sibling that often has the rest of the family shaking their heads. Kitty’s life is archived in old home movies and minimalist animation. Bill tracks down a friend of Kitty’s who actually held her in her dying moments, workmates, an ex-husband, a lover, and even the family of her killer. In The Witness’s final, literally dramatic act, he tries to find closure once and for all.
“For me, at its heart, this film is a love story about a devoted brother’s determination, propelled by love and loss, to reclaim his sister Kitty’s life from her death,” said director Solomon. “Thanks to Bill, I believe Kitty Genovese becomes a person not just a victim. The witnesses are no longer them. They are more like us.”
KinoSmith Inc., is an independent Canadian film distribution and marketing company founded in 2007 by distribution veteran Robin Smith. KinoSmith is also home to the Hot Docs Collection that releases award-winning documentaries curated by the Hot Docs Festival in Canada. KinoSmith recently teamed up with the Blue Ice Group to start a new global distribution entity called Blue Ice Docs. KinoSmith’s recent releases include LEAGUE OF EXOTIQUE DANCERS, IRIS, HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD, and BIKES VS CARS. Titles coming up include, THEORY OF OBSCURITY: A FILM ABOUT THE RESIDENTS, THE SHOW OF SHOWS and GAYBY BABY.